Blomquist looking to make impact in Virginia
HARRISONBURG, Va. — When Tyler Blomquist hurled a complete game to help Barton capture its fourth Ohio Valley Baseball League championship earlier this month, the former St. Clairsville and Post 159 ace thought his baseball career was on hold until West Liberty University starts its fall season.
Then came the call. No, not the call that most — if not all — aspiring major league baseball players await, but a call that would prolong his playing days this summer. On the other end was Ohio Valley native George Laase, who is serving as the pitching coach for the Harrisonburg Turks of the Valley Baseball League that is centered in the Shenandoah Valley.
“It was really cool … totally out of the blue,” Blomquist said Thursday afternoon via telephone of the call. “It was an offer I couldn’t say no to.”
Not only did the call surprise the 5-9, 175-pound sophomore-to-be, it thrust him into a playoff race with Laase’s old team, Staunton.
“It’s an exciting time down here,” he added.
Harrisonburg defeated Covington, 12-3, Thursday night to draw even with Staunton. The Turks and Braves meet tonight with the winner advancing to the playoffs. The game will be played at Gypsy Hill Park in Staunton.
Blomquist, who was 3-4 with a save in 41.2 innings this summer for Barton, was thrown right into action in his first game. He worked 3.2 innings in a loss to Strasburg, giving up three hits while striking out five and walking a pair. he gave up one earned run.
“Coach Laase told me they were probably going to use me if the starter got into early trouble,” Blomquist recalled. “I was in the bullpen in the third or fourth inning when they told me to start warming up. Honestly, the butterflies weren’t as big as you would think because I went in with the attitude that nobody knows me.”
He entered the game with runners on second and third and one out.
“I told myself to do what I did in high school and this summer. I had to figure a way to work out of it, and I did.”
His debut didn’t surprise Laase or the Turks’ staff.
“Tyler came down here with a chip on his shoulder and I’ve always liked that about him,” Laase explained. “He was throwing 84-85 miles per hour and his curveball was phenomenal. He struck out some pretty good (NCAA) Division I hitters from some pretty big schools.”
From the time Laase stepped onto a baseball field in Virginia, he made a promise to his dad, George Sr.
“I’ve always told him I would try and get as many valley kids a a shot down here,” he revealed. “Sometimes it’s just one shot that might give a player the opportunity to further his career. I never had that growing up. It’s all about accessibility now. It’s a new system of networking. It’s who you know and how that can help you open up avenues.
“Tyler was very impressive against Strasburg. It was a road game and they are tough to beat up there,” Laase noted. “It (the loss) could have been a lot worse if he didn’t come in and shut them down.”
Blomquist is the seventh “Valley Boy” that Laase has gotten a shot. The others are infielder Tate Engle (Fort Frye, Ohio State University, current Meadowbrook High head coach); left-handed pitcher Sam Vincenzo (St. Clairsville, Potomac State, St. Thomas Aquinas); righthander Mark Smythe (Edison, West Liberty, Washington Wild Things); shortstop Andrew Kowalo (Wheeling Park, Liberty University, Wheeling cardinals); lefty Michael “Zuke” Jacob (St. Clairsville, University of Toledo, Chillicothe Paint); and infielder Colton Coss (Linsly, Morehead State University, West Liberty).
All of the above, with the exception of Blomquist, played for the Staunton Braves.
“Everyone has welcomed me with open arms,” Blomquist said. “Everyone is so nice and it’s fun to go to the stadium each night.”